This week we have been discussing sexual harassment. Sadly, half to 80% of middle school and high school students say they have been sexually harassed. This is also a current topic for a presidential candidate.
Plus, a sex scandal rocks Penn State as a former assistant coach at Penn State Jerry Sandusky has been arrested due to sexual abuse of at least eight boys and alleged cover up. Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President for Finance Gary Schultz are charged with lying under oath and not reporting at least one incident of abuse to police. The football coach Joe Paterno and and the university President Graham Spanier have been fired because they were also told of at least one incident and did not alert police.
Here's what to tell your charges about sexual harassment:
- Tell your parents, grandparents, teacher, principal, guidance counselor, doctor, police, or nanny if you think you are being sexually harassed, you need to tell someone who can help you stop it.
- Don’t blame yourself. The person who is harassing you is the one doing something wrong and you haven’t done anything to cause the harassment, even if you flirted with this person or liked him/her.
- Say “No” clearly. Tell the person who is harassing you that his/her behavior offends you. They may not realize how hurtful their behavior is and may need a clear message from you to stop. If the harassment does not end, promptly write a letter asking the harasser to stop. Keep a copy of the letter.
- Write down what happened so you don't forget. When someone harasses you or makes you feel uncomfortable, write it down in a notebook that is just for this purpose. Write down what happened, the date it happened, where it happened, and who else may have seen or heard the harassment. Also write down what you did in response, and how the harassment made you feel. Do not write other information in this notebook, such as appointments or homework assignments. Save any notes or pictures the harasser sent you. It is a good idea to keep the record somewhere besides school, such as your home or another safe place.
- Report the harassment. It is very important that you tell your parents or another adult, like a teacher or guidance counselor, about the harassment. If you want the school to do something about the harassment, you MUST tell a school official, such as the principal, that you are being sexually harassed. If you do not feel comfortable telling the school official yourself, get the help of your parents, a teacher, guidance counselor, or another adult to go with you. If you and/or your parents tell a school official verbally, also do it in writing and keep a copy for yourself. If the first school official (like the principal) doesn’t respond, go to the school board or Superintendent to complain. The law says the school has to stop sexual harassment of a student whether the harasser is a teacher or another student(s) but the school is only required to stop the harassment if someone in authority at the school knows what is happening to you. So you MUST report the harassment to a school official.
- Consult the school grievance policies and Title IX officer. Your school is supposed to have a policy against sexual harassment. Obtain and review a copy of the policy. The Title IX grievance policy may also give you a list of the type of behavior that the school considers to be sexual harassment. Find out from your school who the Title IX officer is for your school or district. You should be able to ask him or her questions about how to complain, and to whom.
- File a complaint with a government agency. If nothing happens after complaining to school officials, you and your parents can file a complaint against the school with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Generally, you must file a complaint with the OCR within 180 days of an act of discrimination. You can call them, and they will explain how to file a complaint. (Contact information is listed below.)
- File a lawsuit. You can also file a lawsuit against the school. If you want to do this, you should look into it quickly, because there are time limits for filing a lawsuit. In California, you must file a lawsuit within 2 years of an act of discrimination. Other states’ time limits vary from one to six years. If you have any questions about finding a lawyer or filing a lawsuit, you can call Equal Rights Advocates free Advice & Counseling Line at 800/839-4ERA.
- It is important to remember that retaliation for taking action under Title IX is illegal. If you feel that someone is mistreating you or treating you unfairly because you have complained about discrimination, you should contact the Office of Civil Rights.
Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education
(The federal agency that enforces school sexual harassment laws)
800-421-3481: National toll-free hotline to report any educational discrimination, to request information on civil rights compliance programs and procedures for filing discrimination complaints.
415-556-4275: San Francisco, CA local office
All other states, check the U.S. government pages of the telephone book for your local offices.
EQUAL RIGHTS ADVOCATES
180 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: (415) 621-0672
Fax: (415) 621-6744
Advice and Counseling:
Equal Rights Advocates' mission is to protect and secure equal rights and economic opportunities for women and girls through litigation and advocacy.
NATIONAL WOMEN’S LAW CENTER
11 Dupont Circle NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20036
The National Women's Law Center works to protect and advance the progress of women and girls at work, in school, and in virtually every aspect of their lives.
NOW LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND
395 Hudson Street, 5th floor
New York, NY 10014
NOW Legal Defense works to enforce girls' equal access to education. Their work in this area focuses on how sexual harassment in schools operates as a barrier to equal education.
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY WOMEN
1111 Sixteenth St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
The AAUW promotes equity for all women and girls, lifelong education, and positive societal change.
SAN FRANCISCO WOMEN AGAINST RAPE
3543 18th Street, #7
San Francisco, CA 94110
24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (415) 647-RAPE
San Francisco Women Against Rape supports survivors of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, their friends and family members, and uses education and community organizing as tools of prevention